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What is Hyperlipidemia?

By Madeleine A.
Updated May 17, 2024
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Hyperlipidemia refers to medical condition characterized by increased levels of fatty substances in the blood. These fatty substances include cholesterol and triglycerides. Excessive amounts of blood lipids can increase the incidence of heart disease by blocking the arteries. The severity of hyperlipidemia can vary from mild to severe. Generally, treatment depends upon the extent of the condition, and other underlying medical conditions that may predispose an individual to elevated blood lipids.

Causes of hyperlipidemia may include a diet that is high is saturated fat, however, one of the major causes is hypothyroidism. This condition refers to a deficiency in the production of the thyroxine, which is a thyroid hormone. Generally, thyroxine is important in the synthesis and breakdown of lipids, and a deficiency may lead to accumulations of blood fats that may promote hyperlipidemia. Other causes of increased blood lipids include diabetes, obesity, and smoking.

Typically, hyperlipidema does not have symptoms and is usually diagnosed during routine blood tests. There may be certain manifestations, however, that are associated with high blood lipids, which may include swelling under the eyes and achilles tendon. These signs are usually caused by the build up of lipids and cholesterol subcutaneously, or under the skin. Additional symptoms may include yellow fatty deposits on the body that resemble pimples.

In severe cases of hyperlipidemia, pancreatitis may develop, which is manifested by pancreatic inflammation. Pancreatitis causes severe abdominal pain, and in certain instances, is life threatening. Other severe effects of hyperlipidemia include heart attack and stroke. Sometimes, an increase in lipoproteins in the blood may build up over the coronary arteries, which can cause constriction or narrowing. This condition increases the risk of a cardiac event by exerting undue pressure upon the heart.

Treatment for hyperlipidemia includes eating a healthy diet, exercising, and not smoking. In addition, avoiding alcoholic beverages may keep triglycerides at bay, because consuming alcohol may increase the level of these fatty deposits in the blood. If these conservative treatments are not effective enough, drug therapy may be recommended. Medications called statins are frequently prescribed to manage hyperlipidemia. Statins lower lipids and cholesterol in the bloodstream by inhibiting the production of them in the liver.

Sometimes statin medications are not tolerated well because of side effects. These side effects may include gastrointestinal manifestations such as nausea and diarrhea. These symptoms are usually mild, however, they can be intrusive enough for the individual to stop therapy. Another serious side effect of statins include the risk of muscle damage. Patients are advised to report any incidence of muscle pain or weakness to their health care provider. When statins are not tolerated, other treatments may be started to reduce blood fats.

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